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7 Budget Hacks For Retirement, According to Financial Experts

It’s never too early—or too late—to start building a nest egg.

Pretty much any retirement advice boils down to one line: The earlier you start, the better. As reported by The New York Times, people who start saving for retirement at age 22 end up with nearly $560,000 more than those who started saving at 32. But even if you're nearing retirement age or have already retired, you haven't missed the boat—there are a few tips and tricks you can deploy at any time to build a solid nest egg. Read on to learn from financial experts what the best budget hacks are that'll set you up for retirement.

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Look into catch-up contributions.

401K Plan
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For most of your career, there are limits on how much you can put into a retirement account like a 401(k). It's wise to max out the amount of your paycheck that goes into this fund. You should also make use of your employer's contribution matching program, provided they offer such a benefit (it's a common perk at mid-sized for-profit firms these days). But the big one comes when you hit 50: catch-up contributions.

Financial services company Western & Southern Financial Group explains that catch-up contributions basically lift the ceiling on how much you can contribute to a retirement fund. For instance, in 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will allow individuals to contribute up to $22,500 to a 401(k), up from $20,500 last year and $19,500 two years ago. But if you're over 50, you can add an additional $7,500 to that, bringing the total annual tally to $30,000.

Delay your social security.

Social Security Cards
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Once you turn 62, you can start to see the years of Social Security deductions from your paycheck payoff. But if you can hold off a few years, thanks to a program called Delayed Retirement Credits, you'll earn even more. The exact rate is dependent on the year you were born (the Social Security Administration has a handy chart that can help you calculate) but in general, it earns you more in the long term.

Take out a reverse mortgage.

A senior couple sitting together with a laptop and calculator paying bills
iStock / Inside Creative House

"Reverse mortgages were specifically designed to help those 62 and older supplement their retirement," says Chris Moschner, chief marketing officer at American Advisors Group (AAG). "Unlike a traditional home equity loan, such as an FHA or refinance loan that you begin paying back soon after your loan closes, a reverse mortgage doesn't have to be paid back until you leave your home or do not comply with the loan terms."

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the only reverse mortgage insured by the federal government is a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is available through a Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-approved lender. HUD explains that the amount of home equity you can withdraw under an HECM depends on several factors such as current interest rates, the ages of the borrower and eligible non-borrowing spouse, and the "'lesser of appraised value or the HECM FHA mortgage limit or the sales price."

"In addition to having no monthly mortgage payments, you will receive tax-free proceeds from your reverse mortgage loan, and you can designate how you want to receive them," says Moschner. "As an example, you could select a growing line of credit and use as needed. Interest is only charged on the portion you access."

Some of the ways Moschner notes you can utilize a reverse mortgage are to pay off your existing mortgage and thereby increase your cash flow, give retirement savings accounts more time to grow, or renovate your home.

READ THIS NEXT: 3 IRS Deductions You Can't Take This Year, Experts Warn.

Get a financial advisor.

Financial Advisor
Atstock Productions/Shutterstock

One of the single best things you can do to prepare for retirement is to get a really solid financial advisor in your Rolodex. Finding a trusty one isn't as easy as walking into your local Bank of America and talking to the first person you run into, though.

Several professional organizations maintain thorough databases of financial planners, including the XY Planning Network, the Garrett Network, and, of course, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).

Forbes reports financial advisors aren't cheap, ranging from around $250 per hour to more than $5,000 if you're looking to keep one on retainer. There are those, too, who operate on fees, essentially skimming a percentage off any extra earnings your assets earn; NAPFA and the Garrett Network, for what it's worth, only list advisors who operate off a fee.

Above all, your intent should be to find someone who's a fiduciary—meaning they're effectively duty-bound to act with your best interests, rather than their own potential profit, in mind.

Consolidate your retirement accounts.

Savings Account Screen

Your first employer opened your retirement account with Fidelity. Your second, TD Ameritrade. Your third, Wells Fargo. Soon enough, you're fielding what feels like a weekly deluge of envelopes with details about retirement accounts at a slew of banks, all for the high crime of trying to build out your résumé. The easiest way to make it stop is to consolidate your accounts into one—a move that, as a bonus, has a financial incentive too.

"People can end up with smaller IRAs and old 401(k)s and so forth," Christine Benz, director of personal finance at Morningstar, a personal finance research firm, told CNBC. Not only is this annoying, but CNBC reports employers can just cash out small accounts (typically under $1,000) and send you a check, effectively removing that money from your retirement fund. There's also the matter that withdrawing requires a fee; the more accounts you have, the more fees you have to pay. And this is to say nothing of just how head-spinning the process of tracking it all can be.

Yes, consolidating all of your disparate accounts can be a pain in the neck. You could do it yourself by calling up every individual bank. An alternative method is to just tap that financial advisor. You're basically paying to keep the earnings you already have, but money can't buy more time.

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Get savvy about monthly bills.

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When you were working full-time, you may not have given a ton of thought to small expenses like Netflix or that high-speed internet. But in retirement, these things can start to add up.

"Lowering your monthly bills will give you extra wiggle room to put more towards investments, which is particularly important for those approaching retirement age and who need to make catch-up contributions," shares consumer savings and smart shopping expert Andrea Woroch.

One area Worch especially says to be savvy is with your wireless carrier, as many people waste money on unnecessary unlimited data. "Opt for a lower-tiered data plan or switch carriers completely to an online-only option like Mint Mobile, which charges just $15 a month for talk, text, and data when you buy service in bulk."

Other ways Worch recommends trying to lower your monthly bills: "Compare competitor rates on cable, internet, and pest control as you may be able to get a better price as a new customer and increase your insurance deductible to cut your monthly premiums by 5 to 20 percent."

Boost your income.

Senior Man Walking With Pet Bulldog In Countryside

If you're nervous about retirement and have maxed out your options to increase your nest egg, you might be able to easily increase your monthly income.

"For example, you can make up to $1,000 offering pet-sitting services through sites like Rover, offer virtual tutoring for $20 to $50 per hour via Varsity Tutors, or post your professional skills for hire via FlexJobs or UpWork," shares Woroch.

She also suggests renting things you might not need currently (or ever), such as your car via Turo, your parking spot via SpotHero, or baby stuff you had for grandkids via BabyQuip.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date financial information from top experts and the latest news and research, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the money you're spending, saving, or investing, always consult your financial advisor directly.

Dana Schulz
Dana Schulz is the Deputy Lifestyle Editor at Best Life. She was previously the managing editor of 6sqft, where she oversaw all content related to real estate, apartment living, and the best local things to do. Read more
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